With the season just around the corner, the Indy Cornrows writing team tackled a few ranging topics about the upcoming season, the future, and even some off-the-court ramble:
1. Danny Granger's already nursing an injury and has dealt with consistent injuries in seasons' past. If he misses significant time, who takes on the scorer's mantle?
Tom Lewis: I wouldn't want to throw Granger's scoring mantle on any one player. Sure, it would be nice to see Paul George step in and fill the void, but on a night-in-night-out basis, that would be too much to ask of PG at this point. Don't get me wrong, PG would have to pick up some of the slack, but so would Roy Hibbert and David West. I think that trio along with supposed replacement Gerald Green are fully capable of covering for Granger at the offensive end if he's unavailable.
Nathan S.: It may have to come down to scoring by committee. While we expect Paul George to increase his scoring load anyway, I don't know if I believe anyone on the team is capable of upping their own scoring levels to completely make up for an extended loss of Danny. But if the starting unit can collectively provide a few more points every night, the ship may be able to stay afloat in his absence.
Ian Levy: I'm sure everyone will help pick up the slack, but hopefully if Granger is out the offensive focus would shift to getting more inside touches for Roy Hibbert and David West. The preseason has been a chance for Paul George to experiment with some of the possessions Granger usually uses. While he has impressed at times, his efficiency is down and turnovers have continued to be a problem. At this point neither George Hill or George seem ready to maintain efficiency as a larger offensive focal point. They, or D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green, should end up taking on a bigger offensive role but hopefully it will mostly come from playing off of West and Hibbert.
Matt Andreason: David West. He's the only other guy on the roster who's put together multiple 20+ PPG seasons. Sure, that was with an elite distributor in CP3 (though, a commonly injured CP3), but the point still stands, West has played the role of a No. 1A scoring option before. Paul George and Roy Hibbert are merited potential selections here, however, both still elicit too many questions about their offensive impact to feel comfortable putting them in a No. 1 role.
2. Last season, Indy Cornrows' writer, Matt Andreason, foolishly presented an argument for why Tyler Hansbrough ought to be a sixth-man of the year candidate. Do the Pacers have a legitimate sixth-man prospect on the roster for 2012-2013?
Tom Lewis: The Pacers best sixth-man prospects remain unknown quantities, but both Gerald Green and Ian Mahinmi have shown in the preseason that they could make a significant impact off the bench. I'd give the nod to Green since he will be able to play either wing position and likely get more minutes than Mahinmi.
Nathan S.: Not since George Hill moved to the starting lineup. I just can't see anyone on the bench capable of contending for a Sixth Man award, though I challenge the second unit to prove me wrong on that matter.
Ian Levy: Sixth-Man of the Year usually goes to the player with the highest points per game total off the bench. In that context I'm not sure the Pacers have a legitimate candidate. Hansbrough, Green and Augustin will all provide scoring punch but none will dominate the way Jason Terry or Manu Ginobili have in winning the award in the past. The Pacers should have an improved second-unit but I don't think any one player will be an individual standout enough to merit serious award consideration.
Matt Andreason: I'd lean towards no. If anyone has a chance, though, it's probably Gerald Green. His rebirth as an NBA player offers the potential for a controlled, smooth-scoring wing who can still dazzle. It also helps Green already has a brand name of sorts through his involvement in the NBA dunk contest and his frequent displays of mythical athleticism. The Pacers' team approach on the second unit likely won't offer much potential for Green to take advantage, but he's got my pick as a Pacer sixth-man threat.
3. More of a hypothetical question: Pick one or the other, would you rather Paul George become and elite shutdown defender or elite scorer?
Tom Lewis: My initial instinct is to take elite scorer, assuming PG would still be a quality defender. But if it is all one and none of the other, I'd go with elite defender for PG because the Pacers need all of the defensive help that they can get, especially on the perimeter.
Nathan S.: If we assume George is where he is now and won't improve on either side? Scoring. The troubles against the Heat were less about what an elite defender could do against two of the league's best, but about getting points when they needed to punch back to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Having George become an elite scorer in that situation could shift the tides of a series.
Ian Levy: Elite defender, no question. Elite defenders are much more rare and much more difficult to compensate for when you don't have one. My biggest concern though with how this question shakes out is George being willing to throttle back his defensive intensity to devote more attention to his performance at the offensive end. People may not remember but Danny Granger stood out during his first few seasons for being a dogged defender who could cover multiple positions. As more shots were available to him his defense became a smaller and smaller part of his game. I would love to see George continue to develop as an offensive player, and really the sky is the limit there. I just hope he doesn't have to give up his defense to do it.
Matt Andreason: Elite scorer. The Pacers' team defense has improved dramatically under Vogel, and with continued team familiarity, it's difficult to see that changing. Plus there's the added element that even with an elite defender, that guy probably isn't stopping LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Kobe Bryant. Limit them at times? Maybe. Stopping, or shutting down? No way. To have a prayer of stopping the elites, it's likely going to need to be more of a team approach anyway. What this team really and sorely lacks is that of an elite scorer who can create and convert his own shot during those well-documented scoring droughts. If George became that, then oh my in Cornrows nation!
4. What stat line does Roy Hibbert need to produce to justify maxing out?
Tom Lewis: Roy earned the big money after averaging around 13 points, 8 rebounds and a couple of blocks per game the past two seasons. Raising his scoring average to 15-17 points per game and bringing that kind of production consistently is what can make him a difference maker for the Pacers with a strong post presence to rely on. That unique ability to produce in the paint is why he ended up making the big money.
Nathan S.: Having always kind of linked Hibbert with Rik Smits, justified or not, I've felt something of a Smits-esque 18/8 would be optimal, but given the team's setup, I'm willing to shave some points while giving him more credit as a rebounder. I'll be happy with 15.5 points and 9 boards, as long as he continues to provide a pair of blocks a night and can manage to get his FG% about 10-20 points above .500.
Ian Levy: Hibbert justifying his salary has less to do with statistical production and more to do with presence. He needs to be on the floor for as many important minutes as possible. He needs to control the paint at both ends of the floor, with strength and poise. He needs to bring his offense closer to the rim, work quickly and decisively, finishing efficiently. He needs to become the emotional center of the team, a confident, supportive and vocal leader. If he does those things he'll be worth every penny, regardless of how the actual numbers shake out.
Matt Andreason: I could live with something similar to last season (13 PPG, 9 RPG, 2 BPG), if he could make some headway in other areas such as consistency, efficiency, leadership, and being more of a presence against other elite bigs/teams. Hibs is still prone to disappearing at different points in the season. Against teams like the Bulls and against players such as Dwight Howard, you barely even notice he's on the court. If Hibbert could solve the riddle of providing some sense as to what one could expect from him night-in, night-out, he'd go a long way towards earning the pay increase. An ideal stat line, though? 15 PPG, 10 RPG, 2 BPG.
5. In honor of election season, which current Pacer would be best suited for Oval Office? Which teammate would be an ideal running mate?
Tom Lewis: David West is hardly a politician but he is a serious, deep-thinking and straight-forward man who is best suited for the serious nature of the job. He may be a little too far left of center to ever win a popular vote, but he definitely has the temperament to handle the job. As his running mate, I'd go with Roy Hibbert. The Big Dawg can soften the edges of Pres West and also use his popularity to help bolster the ticket on the campaign trail.
Nathan S.: Hibbert's major in government studies seems to make him most suitable. Take Hibbert's studies and give him David West as a running mate to stare down some unwilling politicians and the future of America could be extremely bright!
Ian Levy: I think Hibbert's charisma with David West's heart, toughness, and blue-collar work ethic would make for an interesting ticket.
Matt Andreason: Likability, work ethic, smarts, willing to offer opinions; give Roy Hibbert a check in all areas and my vote for the Blue-and-Gold candidate to shoot for the White House. One thing Hibbert lacks, though, might be the nastiness/killer instinct to defend his positions against the opposition, so my running mate would probably be Tyler Hansbrough. Hans would definitely play the role of enforcer with the added benefit of his immaculate UNC record to show off to the public. Hibbert-Hansbrough 2012: Long Legs, Short Arms, Can't Lose.